A series of unrelated things

This post is a bit of a random collection of things that are interesting (to me at least) that have come up in the last few months:

The Brooklyn Museum in New York recently launched an exhibition on the impact of Women on the field of Pop Art which has a brilliant integration of Wikipedia content that both enhances the knowledge of the public-at-large about the subject and also improves the visitor’s experience, at low cost.

In the months before the show, curatorial intern Rebecca Shaykin went about improving the quality of the Wikipedia biographies of all the artists in the show and then the museum techies created an open source iPad interface to present the work in the gallery.

The artists featured in Seductive Subversion deserve to be better integrated into the narrative of Pop Art, in text books, on museum walls, and, yes, even on Wikipedia.  What I’ve done is simply lay the groundwork for their presence on this popular site, in the hopes of generating deeper interest in their lives in work amongst visitors to our exhibition and the general public alike. The pages featured on the iPads in our galleries, like all Wikipedia pages, are continually being updated.  Already Wikipedians have begun contributing to the pages I created just a few weeks ago. — Rebecca Shaykin.

You can see the list of all the articles they helped improve as well as the three-part blogpost about the project (the theory, the editing, and the technology).

A couple of really neat announcements that came from foundation-l this week:

  1. Tim Starling discovered, hidden away, a backup of the earliest edits to Wikipedia ever – dating back to its birthday of January 15th 2001!
  2. People can now donate to the Wikimedia Foundation on a monthly recurring basis, not just once off. Aside from “make Jimmy stop staring at me” this is probably one of the most hotly requested fundraising ideas and will no-doubt create a valuable and stable revenue stream.

Following a speculative email on the Wikimedia Australia mailing list, The National Library of Australia now generates a precise Wikipedia citation template for every single newspaper article in their collection – making it super easy for Wikipedians to find references for Australian history. Simply find any article or page in their digitised newspapers collection and click the “cite” button. The NLA’s fabulous Rose Holley is responsible for getting this done – thank you Rose! Here are her slides from her presentation about the Newspaper digitasation project at GLAM-WIKI in Canberra last year – a project that was mentioned during the presentation by the French national library during the GLAM-WIKI conference in France just last week!


The NLA also apparently has a great time at their staff christmas party! Here’s the video of the performance “puttin’ on the Writs” (don’t miss when Mr. Copyright Law makes them all jump through a hoop).

Based off the original UK war-era poster “Keep calm and carry on” that has recently become retro-cool (see google image search results for some examples and the WP article on its commercialisation). I bought myself this as a present:


It makes me wonder – perhaps we could make some nice GLAM merchandise as gifts for Wikimedians and culture sector professionals who’ve done great outreach work? A bit like the merchandise kits being sent out for Wikipedia’s 10th Birthday celebrations. 🙂

A new MediaWiki editing tool has been developed by a team at Georgia Tech university called “ProveIt” and it is the best thing for Wikipedia usability since the new editing toolbar. It makes it easy to add new references to Wikipedia articles by utilising form-based editing in a neat little javascript addition to the editing interface.

This doesn’t sound like much, but without it you have to know that to add a simple reference to the newspaper show in the NLA screenshot above would require you to write:

{{cite news |url=http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47765591 |title=NEW SHOWS. |newspaper=[[The Advertiser |The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931-1954)]] |location=Adelaide, SA |date=30 November 1936 |accessdate=16 December 2010 |page=11 |publisher=National Library of Australia}}

which outputs as: “NEW SHOWS.”. The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931-1954) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia): p. 11. 30 November 1936. Retrieved 16 December 2010.

Experienced Wikipedians are good knowing these templates but you can see why that is daunting to a new user. The genius of the ProveIt system is that it creates this code automatically after asking you to fill out a form. Clear, effective, fast. I believe that this tool will be key to encouraging new users to try editing and stay around. Congratulations to the team behind this – I hope it (or something like it) becomes increasingly integrated into the default editing interface.

My pick for best Wikimedia fundraiser satire so far (some of which the WMF has already made an attempt at cataloguing):

Jimmy Wales’ Wikipedia Appeal” – the dance music video on YouTube.

And whilst we’re in the department of weird-things-from-the-internet…
I also found this bizzarity: “Kim Jong-Il looking at things

Lori, user:HstryQT, from Indianapolis has just given a presentation at the Children’s Museum about her time so far as the “Wikipedian in Residence” there. n.b Vegemite is an Australian delicacy that no one else appreciates…

On a completely separate note, here’s two things that would greatly improve the efficiency of working across multiple wikis. I know I’m not the first to think of them, but both would have proved extremely useful to me this past week.

  1. Take Single User Login to its logical conclusion and have a global watchlist, contributions lists, userpage/talkpage, interface language preferences, etc. This would alleviate much of the problem of being active on several wikis whereby you have to check each one separately. With fully integrated Single User Login you wouldn’t have to visit every one in turn to see if someone has been trying to communicate with you (see also the essay “integrated, interwiki, global watchlists“).
  2. Allow different privacy/access settings for different user rights groups.  This would not be for Wikipedia, but for all of the Wikis we run for organisational purposes. Currently, every time we have a different level of access rights we have to have a whole new wiki – to that end there the WMF has a BoardWiki (for the trustees), an OfficeWiki (for trustees + staff), an InteralWiki (for trustees + staff + chapter representatives) and the publically viewable FoundationWiki. Most chapters have a similar setup. If the right to view wikipages could be set on a fine grained basis for these different kinds of groups then we wouldn’t need to proliferate wikis all the time for purely administrative purposes. This is one of the fundamental principles of Intellipedia – the US government’s inter-agency intelligence sharing system based on MediaWiki – where pages are viewable based on your national security clearance. Perhaps they could be convinced to share their code for this feature?

Of course, not being of the techie variety, I have no idea if these things are easy to achieve or insanely difficult. Perhaps one of the chapters would like to offer ideas as contracts?

This week I also attended a conference on “Recent Developments in Intellectual Property in South East Asia“. Thank you to the good folks from CCi for inviting me and to Wikimedia Indonesia for pointing this conference out in the first place. One of the speakers was Ari Juliano Gema who is trying to port Creative Commons to the Indonesian jurisdiction. One of the tricky parts, as far as I can understand it, is that in indonesian law you are required to register any commercial contract. Whilst none of the Creative Commons licenses require commercial use several of them allow it – and do so without the obligation to receive specific permission (or registration) from the copyright holder. Ari also pointed out that Indonesians are the second largest users of Facebook (after the USA) and has the largest number of Twitterers in the world. I also I learned about the interesting “Peer to Patent” scheme being run as a pilot project around the world. It is attempting to crowdsource the research for “prior art” that is the time consuming part of any new patent application. Apparently, of the 31 patent applications used in the Australia trial a full third had discoveries made by the community that were incorporated into the final report.

Have a very GLAM christmas! I hope to have some fantastic news to share very soon – watch this space….

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5 Responses to A series of unrelated things

  1. Steven Walling says:

    Great roundup post. I especially like the GLAM coffee cup. That’s a great variation on the theme for Wikimedia. 🙂

  2. Ryan Lane says:

    Regarding Eight #2 and Intellipedia. This is totally incorrect. Intellipedia has a classification system, but does not have fine grained permissions, as you suggest.

    There are many technical problems associated with fine grained permissions inside of a single wiki, especially for read access. Please search the wikitech-l and mediawiki-l archives for more details explanations of why this is very unlikely to occur.

    Great post otherwise though. I especially love the The National Library of Australia’s cite template generation!

  3. John Broughton says:

    But #3 and #5 are closely related. If all newspaper articles had a “cite” button (just like virtually all newspapers, at least in the United States, have a “Facebook” button/icon/link), then the ProveIt template (and all typing) wouldn’t be necessary. *That* would make it far, far easier for new editors to add citations.

    And yes, getting newspapers on board (though it’s quite in their own interest to have links on Wikipedia pointing to their stories) won’t happen tomorrow. In fact, it’s unlikely to happen at all until the Wikimedia Foundation decides that they should push the idea – which might take as little as sending out letters over the signature of the CEO.

  4. Kurt L. says:

    Hey Liam, thanks for the great write-up on ProveIt! We’ve quoted some of your comments on our home page: http://proveit.cc.gatech.edu/

    Please let us know if you feel the quotation misrepresents your opinion, or if you’d like it removed for any other reason.

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